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Restaurants that fill you up without emptying your pockets.
Mumbai | Police Canteen
Journalists of The Times of India were the saddest to see the police canteen close for renovations a couple of years ago. It was one of the few places in the vicinity - and the city - where you could get a biryani for just Rs 40. Patrons eagerly returned to the canteen, which is the compound that has the Esplanade Court and Azad Maidan police station, when it reopened in August 2011 to find a spiffy cafeteria. What used to be a comfortingly grubby hall with creaky benches is now tiled and tube lit and has the generic appearance of a canteen. The walls are hung with prints of Bombay in the 19th century and one side is flanked by a self service counter. The crowd however hasn't changed. The canteen still draws cops from the police station, lawyers taking a break from proceedings at the court and journalists. Neither has the food, we were happy to note. The menu is a mix of curries (egg, meat and fish) South Indian items such as uttapam, Maharashtrian snacks such as vada and typical Mumbai foods like kheema pao.
Our mutton thali was a generous serving of mutton curry, daal, rice, a dry arbi sabzi, two rotis and papad. Usually the mutton at cheap joints tends to be fatty and tough. So we were surprised that it was tender and had more meat than gristle. It came in a rather generic, masala-filled gravy that was tasty if not outstanding. The chicken biryani was more a pulao. Again, it had a spicy quality that you find in biryanis served at the average Mughlai restaurant but we didn't complain. The only vegetarian item we sampled was the daal khichdi, which only those who can endure extreme spice should attempt.
Police Canteen, in the Esplanade Court
Complex, near Azad Maidan police station.
Meal for two approx Rs 150.
Noida | Vaango!
If you miss eating south Indian food on banana leaves at pocketfriendly prices and in clean surroundings, Vaango is the place to visit. Vaango, meaning 'come' in Tamil, is immediately welcoming. Right at the entrance is the statue of a dhoticlad man with folded hands. Equally beckoning was the aroma of the filter coffee made with freshly roasted beans. An open kitchen, a wall full of illustrations from Rajinikanth blockbusters and traditional musical instruments and a cheerful staff wishing "Vanakam" give the place a friendly atmosphere.
The menu is mix of authentic south Indian cuisines - it has picks from Tamil, Kannadiga, Kerelite and Andhrite foods.
Our neer dosa and ishtew were excellent. The dosa was perfectly steamed and light while the ishtew, a soupy mix of vegetables simmered in coconut milk, had a pleasing tinge of a sweetness that comes from using fresh coconut. It was easily mopped by the dosa as it had a slightly thick consistency that, Chef Egin Abraham explained, had been imparted by a pinch of wheat flour. The item is accompanied by two kinds of chutneys and sambhar, which one can have unlimited helpings of.
Vaango serves two kinds of thalis: the periya thali (large) and chinna (small) thali. The periya thali is the most expensive item on the whole menu at Rs 149. It comes with four fluffy pooris, sambhar, a korma made of raw papaya and bananas, dry beans kundru or channa kundru, rice, pickle, sweet curd and rava kesri, a milky dessert flavoured with pineapple and saffron. One can also order gunpowder with sesame oil to go with the rice and sambhar. Unlike many south Indian restaurants that serve breakfast items such as idli and vada only in the morning, Vaango offers these throughout the day. We sampled the daal vada, which was crisp and had the right combination of chillies, fried onions and fenugreek. And for dessert, we had the Onam specialty, ada payassam. Made of ground rice, the thick, heart-warming dessert was generously topped with roasted cashew nuts, cardamom and raisins. And a steal at just Rs 39.
SHVETA BHAGAT Vaango! J-57, 1st Floor, Sector 18, Noida, Daily Noon-11 pm (99531-68826 ). Meal for two approx Rs 300.
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